Kickback

[Amazon Link]

The title is sometimes rendered as Robert B. Parker's Kickback. And, assuming you don't block ads (and you shouldn't do so here, because they are non-intrusive click-here-to-buy-at-Amazon pictures), you'll see the late Mr. Parker's name is the biggest thing on the cover, followed by the title, "A Spenser Novel" and (finally) the actual author, Ace Atkins, relegated to small type in the lower corner.

Oh, well. I loved Mr. Parker too. And I assume Mr. Atkins is getting paid well enough to shoulder this disrespectful indignity.

Spenser is coming off knee surgery, a side effect of a previous case. A mother arrives at his office with a tale of woe: her son made the grievous mistake of setting up a fake social media account lampooning his high school's principal, hinting at non-standard sexual proclivities. And for that, the kid has been shipped off to a juvenile facility out on a remote island in Boston Harbor.

An obvious injustice, and despite the fact that the kid's mom can't afford his normal rate, Spenser is soon on the case. The problem is the old mill city of "Blackburn", up north of Boston on the Merrimack River. (Sounds like Scenic Lowell.) It turns out to be a nest of corruption, where a couple of judges and the cops conspire to ship kids off to the island at the slightest excuse, ignoring most due-process protections. Why? Well, you probably noticed the title.

As before: I'm pretty sure most people wouldn't be able to detect the differences between a Spenser novel written by Mr. Parker and one by Mr. Atkins in a double-blind test. (I like to think I kind of can, but I wouldn't put a lot of money on it.)

Gripe: much is made of the corrupt interaction between Blackburn's judges, the cops, mobsters, and the owners of the (aieee!) for-profit juvenile facility the kids are being sent to. The usual cheap shots are taken, the profit motive being the root of all evil, etc. It's not as if there weren't sordid stories of misbehavior in Massachusetts government-run hoosegows.

Kind of neat is the appearance of a character unseen since 1973's The Godwulf Manuscript, Iris Milford, playing a critical role. (In a note to the odd things a long-running fiction series does to a timeline: she was "pushing thirty" back then, which would make her somewhere around seventy now. As Spenser says: "Let's not think about it. Math makes my head hurt.")

The Invisible Woman

[1.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

One of Mrs. Salad's Netflix pix. Sometimes these work out, other times not. This time, not.

Or maybe I was just not in the mood. The movie is based on the true-enough extramarital affair between middle-aged Charles Dickens (yes, that one) and the minimally-talented much younger actress, Ellen "Nelly" Ternan. Dickens has gotten bored with his pudgy wife. (Although he was interested enough previously to have ten children with her.)

Ralph Fiennes plays Dickens (he also directed). Felicity Jones plays Ms. Ternan. The movie was nominated for the costume design Oscar, ignored for everything else. Understandably, because it's dull. Mostly characters spouting wooden dialogue at each other. Sample, thanks to IMDB:

Charles Dickens: A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is a profound secret and mystery to every other.

Nelly: Until that secret is given to another to look after. And then perhaps two human creatures may know each other.

Arrgh. Shhuuut uuuuup!

Rated R, although I can't figure out why. I may have been napping during the hot stuff. If there was any attempt at humor, I missed that too. There's a low-budget train crash, though.


Last Modified 2015-05-23 2:27 PM EST